We're back again with another post about Halloween and movies. There are leaves on the ground, pumpkins in your coffee, and there's a chill in the air. Why not run one down your spine? (The chill, not the pumpkins.)
I suppose it doesn't have to be scary to be a Halloween movie. In fact, for some reason the trend I've noticed in recent years is to release those around Christmas. For gosh sakes, can we spell Santa's "sleigh" correctly and unironically in a way that doesn't lead to the slaughter of unsuspecting citizens?! But I digress...
Here are some of the movies on our list for this year to kick off the Halloween weekend.
Ernest Scared Stupid
To name just a single favorite Halloween movie of mine is like trying to pick out your favorite breath of air: there’s too many of them and they all mean something different to me. Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you’re starting to understand the love I have for this holiday and it’s movies. If you’ve ever talked to me, you likely have heard my love for “The Monster Squad” from 1987. However to prevent sounding like a broken record, I’ll recommend “Ernest Scared Stupid” from 1991. One of the five movies I will likely ALWAYS watch every Halloween season, this movie stars Jim Varney as his titular character Ernest P. Worrell as a garbage man who accidentally unleashes a long banished Troll back into town. It’s silly from beginning to end with a few creepy and weird moments thrown in for good measure. It won’t leave you with nightmares (though a scene where the Troll appears in the girls bed did scare the crap out of me as a child) but if you’re looking for “family friendly scares and laughs”, you’ll be hard pressed to find something fitting.
I haven't seen many Halloween movies but this year I watched Sleepy Hollow per Jeff's recommendation. It is based on the story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving and directed by Tim Burton. I loved the gloomy atmosphere that the visual style provided as well as the superb score. I thought Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane was fantastic and Christina Ricci was an excellent fit for the role of an unsettling Katrina Van Tassel. Oh, and I couldn't help but laugh when I saw Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman. Man can he snarl.
My favorite movie for Halloween time is Coco which takes place during Dia de los Muertos. I enjoy the themes of music, family, and following your dreams. The movie and holiday it explores gives us an opportunity to remember our beloved dead and our own mortality.
Arsenic and Old Lace
One of my favorite movies to watch around Halloween is "Arsenic and Old Lace". Cary Grant's performance in it is hysterical and the supporting cast do a great job of making it hilarious throughout. If you're looking for something spooky but also want to laugh all night, this is the movie for you.
As an 8 year old sitting in a tiny and dark unfinished basement, Hocus Pocus was too scary for me but, I’m happy to say that this cult classic has since become a favorite movie to watch every October! It has a charming quality to it, oozing nostalgia from a 90s childhood, and capturing the mischief and magic of Halloween. A little bit spooky, a little bit silly, and the good old Disney message of courage and love.
Over the years my favorite Halloween movie has changed. In our previous post here I had nominated Adams Family or Beetlejuice as my favorites. Since that post I have watched those movies maybe one time. I still love them, but they just haven't made it back into a regular rotation. The movie Hocus Pocus, on the other hand, I watch several times every year. It has become the quintessential Halloween film in the Freng household. It has all the elements of Halloween that we love: great music (Monster Mash, and Bette Midler singing spells), costumes, witches, zombies, fall decorations, and kids who are coming of age and have to save the day. It's also a great movie that is just scary enough for the kids. The little ones get a bit freaked out but the big kids love it. That seems to be the perfect balance. It also is a great representation of the movies that we love from the early 90s. I also saw a sneak peak of Jeff's content and so I am furiously trying to find a copy of 'Earnest Scared Stupid' to watch with the kids. I remember it being such a silly movie, but the troll under the bed scene (spoilers!) terrified me. I can't wait to show my kids that scene. 🎃 🍂 👹 🎃 🍿 🍫
It's the great pumpkin Charlie Brown
Every few years when I watch this again with the family, I can't help but hope Charlie hits the dang football. They really should WOW us some year with that adjustment, don't you think? Treat instead of trick, one-time, come-on Charlie Brown!
The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror
I've always claimed that I didn't have much interest in Halloween movies. But my colleagues surprised me with almost all of the recommendations that would hit my list of favorites. I'm not one for scary movies, but their choices serve as a reminder that not all Halloween movies are scary. In fact, most of the mentions here are not. But for the sake of variety, I'm going to go a different direction and break the mold with a TV show recommendation. Many TV shows have a tradition of making a Halloween episode. The best of the best in this category is the Simpsons with their annual Treehouse of Horror episode. I remember excitedly waiting for that particular episode to air near Halloween every year. It is a fun episode of the show because the theme gives the creators license to play with the characters and plots in a way that is completely detached from the canon of the show.